Image: Anti-government protesters chant slogans Saturday during a demonstration in Sanaa, Yemen.
Muhammed Muheisen  /  AP
Anti-government protesters chant slogans Saturday during a demonstration demanding the resignation of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in Sanaa, Yemen.
msnbc.com news services
updated 3/26/2011 7:59:32 PM ET 2011-03-26T23:59:32

A look at the latest developments in Mideast political unrest on Saturday:

Yemen: Talks hit snag; al-Qaida moves in
Allies of Yemen's president and his political opponents failed to make progress Saturday in talks on a possible exit for the man who has led the nation through 32 years of growing poverty and conflict and whose rule is now deeply imperiled by a popular uprising.

As the political turmoil deepened, there were signs that Islamic militants in the remote reaches of the country were seeking to make gains on the situation. Residents and witnesses in the small town of Jaar in the south said suspected al-Qaida militants moved down from an expanse of mountains on Saturday to seize control there a few weeks after police fled, setting up checkpoints and occupying vacant government buildings.

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President Ali Abdullah Saleh argued in a TV interview that without him, the country would be at grave risk of breaking apart.

"Yemen is a ticking bomb and if the political system collapses and there's no constructive dialogue there will be a long civil war that will be difficult to end," he told the Al-Arabiya network.

Image: An anti-government protester demonstrates Saturday in Sanaa, Yemen
Hani Mohammed  /  AP
An anti-government protester demonstrates Saturday in Sanaa, Yemen.

Officials on both sides of Saturday's talks, which were attended by the U.S. ambassador, said the parties refused to give any ground. After six weeks of unprecedented protests in Yemen, Saleh says he is willing to step aside, but has left himself room for maneuver by adding the condition that he wants to leave the country in "safe hands."

The protesters — whose ranks have been bolstered by defecting military commanders, lawmakers, Cabinet ministers, diplomats and even Saleh's own tribe — are insisting he go immediately. The demands and defections have only grown since government security forces — including snipers on rooftops — shot dead more than 40 demonstrators in the capital of Sanaa a week ago.

Jordan: King's supporters take to street
Thousands of supporters of Jordan's King Abdullah II took to the streets of the capital Saturday to express their loyalty, as a resilient opposition protest movement demands political reforms and new elections.

The 7,000 people sought to put on a display that would counterbalance scenes a day earlier when security forces and government supporters clashed with thousands of anti-government protesters.

One person died in Friday's protests, and the government insisted he was one of its supporters and that he died of a heart attack. But Khairi Saad's brother said Saturday that he was among the anti-government protesters, and an Islamic opposition groups said he was beaten to death by police. He was the first person to die during nearly three months of unrest.

Jordan's protests have generally been smaller than those in other Arab nations — and in another difference have not sought the ouster of the country's leader, Abdullah.

But the young Jordanians organizing the demonstrations said this week they are intensifying their campaign, demanding the removal of the prime minister, creation of a more reformist government, the dissolving of what is seen as a docile parliament and the dismantling of the largely feared intelligence department.

Abdullah's supporters waved the king's portrait and danced in Saturday's march, chanting, "With our lives and souls, we sacrifice for you, our king."

Egypt: Prime minister vows corruption fight
Egypt's Prime Minister Essam Sharaf vowed Saturday to press a fight against corruption, responding to public pressure to speed up investigations into alleged graft by allies of ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

He also defended a draft law banning strikes, denying criticism from human rights groups that it curtails freedom of expression and the right to protest.

Prosecutors have been investigating graft allegations against former officials and businessmen after an uprising toppled Mubarak last month, but many Egyptians protest that several of the former leader's allies have yet to be arrested.

"The government has not and will not cover up corruption regardless of its nature or identity. We will stamp it out no matter where it is. That is a vow from the government to the people of this nation," Sharaf said in a televised statement.

"There is no place for those who were the enemies of the January 25 revolution in this new era," he said.

The cabinet was formed by Egypt's interim military rulers to try to meet protesters' demands for the removal of officials linked to Mubarak.

Sharaf said the cabinet had been successful in its first three weeks. It had overseen the first free and fair vote, redeployed police forces, dissolved Egypt's state security apparatus and started trading in the stock exchange, he said.

But human rights groups have criticized it for approving a draft law, valid as long as Egypt's state of emergency is in force, that bans strikes for damaging the economy. It extends to those who organize strikes.

Washington: Variety of protesters at White House
The pedestrian-only strip of Pennsylvania Avenue, between the White House and Lafayette Square, often hosts demonstrators. Rarely, however, do so many interests bump into each other, literally, and generate such a cacophony of unrelated chants.

Under cool, sunny skies, the eastern-most circle comprised people demanding the ouster of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. "Pray for Yemen" said a child's hand-lettered sign.

Next was a group denouncing Syrian President Bashar Assad. "Stop killing civilians," said one sign, as the group chanted slogans in Arabic.

Image: Mariam Jamal Ismail and Randa Elzouzary of Libya join protesters Saturday in front of the White House
Manuel Balce Ceneta  /  AP
Mariam Jamal Ismail, front right, and Randa Elzouzary, center, both from Libya, join protesters Saturday in front of the White House.

Another circle of flag-waving people supported Bahrain's monarchy. "We love our government" one sign said.

Two women dissented nearby, displaying photos of slain protesters in Bahrain. "We met them with flowers," their poster said, "they met us with death."

The loudest group, thanks to amplifiers, protested the U.S.-led bombings of Moammar Gadhafi's forces in Libya. "Libya for Libyans, not for Wall Street dividends," they chanted.

Perhaps the largest group — more than 50 people — carried signs criticizing GMOs. Not to be confused with cars or federal agencies, GMOs are genetically modified organisms, which render some foods unsafe, the demonstrators said.

The biggest prop carried the most enigmatic message. An inflated elephant bore a sign demanding "the truth" about the September 2001 terrorist attacks, which it labeled "the elephant in the room."

Uniformed Secret Service agents, who have seen it all before, looked on calmly and seemed to enjoy the lovely blue skies.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: Anti-government protests ramp up in Mideast

Data: Young and restless: Demographics fuel Mideast protests

Photos: July

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  1. A man prepares the grave of Hassan al-Hora during his funeral at a cemetery in Sanaa, July 19. Fighting between government forces and opposition supporters erupted in Yemen's capital Sanaa on Monday, killing six people, among them al-Hora, opposition sources said. (Suhaib Salem / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Anti-government protesters shout slogans during a demonstration to demand the ouster of Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh in the southern city of Taiz, July 19. (Khaled Abdullah / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. A girl has ''will not leave'' written on her face during a rally to support Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa July 17. (Suhaib Salem / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Anti-government protestors shout slogans during a demonstration demanding the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in Sanaa, Yemen, on Wednesday, July 13. (Mohammed Hamoud / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. An anti-government protester writes slogans on a wall using his own blood during a rally to demand the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh at Tagheer square in Sanaa on July 13. The words read "In my blood I protect Yemen." (Suhaib Salem / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Girls light candles as they attend a rally to demand the ouster of Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh in the southern city of Taiz July 9. (Khaled Abdullah / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. A Yemeni anti-government protester displays bullets allegedly fired by supporters of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh during a demonstration demanding Saleh’s ousting, in Sana'a, Yemen on July 8. (Yahya Arhab / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Supporters of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh sit on stone pillars during a rally in support of President Saleh in Sana'a, Yemen, on July 8. Supporters of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh staged rallies around his vacant palace Friday after their leader's first TV appearance since being injured in a blast last month and leaving for treatment in Saudi Arabia. (Mohammed Al-Sayaghi / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. A supporter of Saleh kisses his picture as his supporters celebrate in Sanaa on July 7 after he appeared on television for the first time since he was severely wounded in an assassination attempt. (Mohammed Huwais / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Saleh delivers a speech from the Saudi capital, Riyadh, on July 7, making his first public appearance since he was wounded in an attack on his palace in Sanaa in June. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Anti-government protesters join their hands and shout slogans demanding an end to the 32-year regime of President Saleh, in Sanaa on July 6. (EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. A police vehicle is set ablaze during clashes between armed followers of the opposition and police in the southern city of Taiz on July 6. (Khaled Abdullah / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. A relative of victims of recent clashes talks to a member of the United Nations human rights investigation team, left, in Sanaa on July 5. The U.N. team arrived in Yemen last week to assess the situation in the country after months of unrest. (Suhaib Salem / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Women recite prayers during a rally to demand the ouster of President Saleh in the southern city of Taiz on July 1. Tens of thousands of Yemenis turned Friday prayers into rallies for and against Saleh, who is recovering from injuries sustained in an assassination attempt in June. (Khaled Abdullah / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: Man prepares the grave of al-Hora during his funeral at a cemetery in Sanaa
    Suhaib Salem / Reuters
    Above: Slideshow (14) Political unrest in Yemen - July
  2. Image:
    Hani Mohammed / AP
    Slideshow (39) Political unrest in Yemen - June
  3. Image: Anti-government protests in Yemen
    Wadia Mohammed / EPA
    Slideshow (59) Political unrest in Yemen - May
  4. Image:
    Hani Mohammed / AP
    Slideshow (25) Political unrest in Yemen - April
  5. Image: Tens of thousands of Yemenis take to the
    AFP - Getty Images
    Slideshow (67) Political unrest in Yemen - Earlier photos
  6. YEMEN
    Karim Ben Khelifa
    Slideshow (20) Yemen in the spotlight

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